MPs call for inquiry over West Yorkshire child sexual exploitation allegations, as minister says councils have 'moral responsibility' to protect children

Child sexual exploitation allegations in West Yorkshire should be investigated by an independent inquiry, MPs have urged.

Bradford city centre
Bradford city centre

Conservative Robbie Moore (Keighley and Ilkley) said the issue was being “swept under the carpet” and claimed “nothing really has changed” since concerns over grooming gangs linked to Keighley and across the Bradford district were first raised by his Labour predecessor Ann Cryer.

A “small minority of largely Pakistani Muslim men” are responsible for the exploitation, Mr Moore added.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

He was joined by Tory colleagues Philip Davies (Shipley) and Lee Anderson (Ashfield) in demanding a “Rotherham-style inquiry”, which examined child sexual exploitation in the South Yorkshire town – with at least 1,400 young people said to have been abused in a 16-year period.

Robbie Moore, MP for Keighley and Ilkley

Home Office minister Rachel Maclean said the Government was “crystal clear” that it expected local authorities to commission inquiries such as the one called for.

She added that Bradford Council and other authorities have a “moral responsibility to do the right thing” and “protect those innocent children”.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Moore said: “Let’s call this problem out for what it is: predominantly a small minority of largely Pakistani Muslim men in West Yorkshire, including, I’m sad to say, in Keighley and across the Bradford district, that have been sexually exploiting young children for far too long.

“The Pakistani community are quite rightly outraged that the entire community is being branded with the same accusation. It is not fair and it is deeply offensive.”

Mr Moore added: “This isn’t about race or pitching communities against each other, it’s about looking at the facts so we can address them head-on and move forward.”

Mr Davies, intervening, said: “This is really just about the victims and making sure that a) they get the justice they deserve and b) we make sure there are no future victims of this terrible crime.”

He suggested the Government “should make sure we get this inquiry” if Bradford Council and others do not bring one forward in order to “get to the bottom of what’s gone wrong and make sure it never happens again”.

MPs heard that a recent review had taken place but Mr Moore labelled it “light” and “limited”, and argued that a wider inquiry was required to “understand the scale” of the problems.

Mr Moore told the Commons: “We need a Rotherham-style inquiry to address these issues.

“I very much hope to be using the opportunity in this debate to be encouraging the Government to use its weight to put pressure on Bradford Council and our new West Yorkshire Mayor to do the right thing.”

Mr Anderson said: “The only way we’ll know the full scale of these vile crimes in Bradford is for a full Rotherham-style type review, investigation.”

For the Government, Ms Maclean said: “That independent inquiry in Rotherham… was commissioned by Rotherham Borough Council.

“This Government is crystal clear, crystal clear, that it is for those local authorities in individual towns and cities, such as Bradford, which are responsible for delivering services, to commission those local inquiries.”

She said Mr Moore set out “with great clarity the mechanisms that are available to those local authorities, including in Bradford, to be triggered.

She said: “The Government fully agrees with his remarks. He is right in every word of what he says. The options are available to Bradford Council and those other authorities.”

Ms Mclean added: “I do welcome Bradford’s work to improve their response to child sexual abuse and exploitation by identifying poor practice through the recent review.

“But I also expect Bradford Council to listen closely to the very real concerns that members have raised in the House this evening, and to take the most thoroughgoing approach to ensuring that all lessons have been learned and that local partners are doing everything possible to identify child sexual abuse and exploitation and protect children from harm, without letting political and cultural sensitivities deter them.”

Urged by Mr Davies for the Government to ensure an inquiry takes place if the council does not hold one, the minister said: “I very much hope that tonight people in Bradford are watching this and will consider the next steps.”

Deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing said: “I think the whole House clearly wants action to occur now.

“It’s not often that we’re all in such agreement.”